Finding the Updraft
Being a working musician is not the same at working a being a musician. You do the gigs, do the time, do the practice, do the social media thing and at the end of the proverbial day you pay your dues and bills with money you’ve made trading your talent and time for money. That is the simplicity of it. The complexity of making that happen takes nerves of titanium and a resolve not even Sisyphus had rolling that rock up the hill. I heard an interview today with Stewart Copleland where he said before he drummed with the Police he would write letters after every show in different handwriting saying how awesome the drummer Steward Copeland was at last night’s show. I can relate.
In the past 30 days my music has taken me to Milwaukee, Dallas, Austin, Boerne, Chicago and points in between. Driving through west Texas I saw the Buzzards, AKA, Turkey Vultures cleaning up the road kill the TDOT never picks up, ever. Driving the 12 hours to Austin or Dallas I see the Buzzards riding the thermals, what I call the updrafts. It is so serene, effortless, and efficient. Craning my neck to admire them with their featherless heads and huge wingspan I think how perfectly their gliding accompanies Native American flute music, or vice versa. Then I remember they are Carrion, feeding on decay and death. Usually around then I think of my enemies hovering around me waiting for the same. I’d rather not think on my enemies but as Sun-Tzu said in “The Art of War” keep them closer than your friends. Recent events have reminded me of the pettiness and viciousness in the music business. Hey, it’s the same in any endeavor where you don’t share the self-imposed limitations and comfort zones of those around you—but this is not about my enemies, it is about me. The thing about ART is it needs a creator and an observer. A performer needs an audience whether it is watching you on YouTube, on their iPod or hearing you live. The exchange and communication is essential otherwise you are creating in a vacuum.
Somewhere along the way I learned the freedom of knowing that everyone and everything in my experience is of my own creation. Not in a narcissistic way but rather in what I need to learn that I missed the previous time it happened. The freedom to not be a victim of anything is liberating but comes with an enormous responsibility that “I” did this. So as I watched events unfold I imagined I was in a theater watching a movie. In this movie the haters were navigating a maze where my success and talent was a dead end so they blamed me and I took the time to indulge their delusion. Nothing is personal as Don Miguel Ruiz reiterates in his book, “The Four Agreements,” absolutely nothing. In Milwaukee my album, A Place Called Peace, won the Indian Summer Music Award in the Flute category. What rocks is that it was a blind judging where the judges had no idea who the artist was therefore judging it on things like musicianship and how the music made them feel. How wonderful is that not to have to beg and deluge your fans, friends and family to “vote for me” in this popularity contest that has nothing to do with music. Something I was reminded of when my name was inadvertently left off a Native American awards ballot recently and the organizers were so hostile to my fans (fans of Native American music I will add) that they have lost credibility. Or how a Facebook friend (let's hope no longer) reported that I was badmouthing a flute maker whose name I never mentioned. Wow, talk about circling Vultures, though vultures don’t deserve to be maligned that way.
See there I go back into being the victim I said I didn’t want to be. Ain’t easy is it? But I know that I and only I brought the bad and the good into my life. How? I was not impeccable with my word, #1 of the Four Agreements. Turns out, as I’ve said before, I’m human and in need of constant readjustment. I’m in the real world playing to audiences who sometimes know nothing about me and are paying $20 a head. I’m on YouTube, where I don’t delete comments, being called everything from God to fag, daily. I read reviews from Switzerland, get emails from Australia to Russia people saying how much they hate or love me. My online sales surprise even me, yet I panic at every new sound my car makes. I don’t take any of it personally, hate or the praise. At an open mic recently a fantastic poet and teacher at NMSU said to me afterwards, “Dang every month I come ready to give it to the man and rip the shit out of everything wrong in this world with my poetry and then you play. All that anger just leaves me and I forget what I was so pissed off about.” How cool is that? I am grateful that I no longer struggle with musical insecurity and questions of self worth. A calm assertiveness (as the Dog Whisperer always says) is in me that radiates. I know that there will never be a shortage of inspiration, confidence, determination, talent and skill. My best work hasn’t even been recorded. I know these things, I don’t have to will them, just make them happen, fearlessly, regardless of circumstance or health. I wish that same contentment to all my fans and friends. Just find the updraft and ride it.
Here is a video from a recent performance in Dallas, Texas of my soon to be recorded song, “Hello Daddy.”